Now for the best story of Summer 2010.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to Springfield, Missouri, the land of my high school and my Dad’s side of the family.  You may know it as the Queen City of the Ozarks.  Or the hometown of Brad Pitt.  Or perhaps the birthplace of the über-famous Bass Pro Shops.

Today the city has a new source of renown:  They just started a Slow Food chapter, called Slow Food Southwest Missouri.  I was thrilled to be a part of the chapter’s inaugural event on July 26th — and for reasons I did not anticipate.

As part of the trip, I wanted to learn about the local food scene in Springfield and connect with the people who are building it.  I sent an email to my friend and food activist, Melissa Millsap.  She’s the Wonder Woman behind Urban Roots Farm, as well as the edible garden program of the Springfield school system.  It also turns out that she’s on the council, if you will, of local superheroes in the movement for good, clean food.

For the event, it was decided that we’d host a farm-to-table dinner, along with a screening of Shelley Roger’s lively documentary, What’s Organic About Organic?.  Amanda Millsap Owen, owner of Home Grown Food, a sweet marketplace that sources all its products from nearby farms, offered the lot next to her store as the venue.  A local artist created a beautiful promotional poster and the ticket sales took off.  By the morning of the event, we had over 65 tickets sold.  We were thrilled.  (And little nervous — could we pull it off?)

On the day of the event, a team of guys put up a huge white tent.  They hung rows of lights and set up the audio visual system.  Another group set the tables.  It was hot and humid, but we were a steady machine.  A big thunderstorm rolled through around 5 o’clock, and we kept on.  The Do-It-Yourself talents of this crowd got it done.

People were due to arrive at 8 pm, and we were ready for them by 6:30 pm.  And then…

Continued below

Hours Into The Original Venue

The Lights Go Up!

We decided one side of the tent should be a little more taunt.  We pulled up one of the rope lines, adjusted it to a few feet away, and started to hammer in the new stake.


Suddenly the whole lot reeked of gas.  There was no avoiding it.  A call went out to City Utilities.  They came down and ordered us to leave the premises.  They said — under no uncertain terms — that we could not host our public event there.

I would have photos of this part, but at the time, it was too tense to whip out a camera. Homer says it best.

Amanda, and her husband Ryan, then made an amazing offer.  “We just moved into a house two blocks away, why don’t we hold it in our backyard?,” they suggested.  And with that, the crew picked up every table and chair and walked it all down the gravel alley way to their yard.  The guys set up the screen in its new place on the side of the garage.  We hung white lanterns on the clothes line to help people find their way.  What happened then was a beautiful dinner, followed by an inspiring film, all under the stars.

Thank you to everyone involved — it was an unforgettable night.  The only way I can describe it is to say, “it did my heart good.”  I could not wish for than this:  A breezy summer night, breaking bread with friends and family, and conversations fueled by the spirit to make our world better.  Thank you to everyone in the Slow Food SW Missouri chapter for making it possible.  Now to many more!

Up and Running at the New Venue!

The Crowd Gathers for the First Event of Slow Food SW Missouri

The Backyard is Set for Farm-to-Table Dinner

With a Toast to Our Local Farmers!

I LOVED This Menu -- Both Its Design & Content -- Thank you all!

Remember earlier this spring when we talked about the leaf-a-licious pouches in Union Square, an exhibit brought to us by Woolly Pockets?

I’m happy to say they are growing.  These photographs were taken this week in SoHo.  I love unexpected moments like this in the city.  Let’s consider this a postcard from NYC to everyone — here and around the country and world — who is building a more sustainable food system for all of us.  You have my kinship.

The plants on this urban corner, surprising many, yet steadfast in their purpose, remind me of efforts big and small taken by people who care.  Simply stated, “small things become big things.”  Our influence is growing, too.  As the summertime begins to yield its best, here’s a toast to you!

Happy July 4th, everyone.  May we take this time to smell the roses and photograph the greens.

Sprouting Up Everywhere - NYC Goes Green

We're All Just Hanging Out

All the scarecrows I know are good at singing and dancing — and eventually — math equations.  And like a good English noun, their name explains their function.  They scare crows.  Songs, math, and directions back to Kansas are frills.

But Brooklyn always has a different take on the usual.  Recently, from the windows of a friend’s house in Williamsburg, I enjoyed seeing what we’ve come to call The Urban Scarecrow.  Or shall we say, The Scarepige?

These are two beautiful urban backyards where the owners have been planting for decades.  The plastic bags are used to scare away pigeons.  I’m told the birds go after the tomato plants, but as you’ll see in the photo below, the spooky bags have them dining elsewhere.

Happy Monday in another lovely week of summer!

Pigeons Be Gone! (Note: Deer in photo is not real)

In the playful name of “seeing things differently,” here’s a story.  A couple of years ago I went to a wedding in Indianapolis and got seated next to a local guy.  His name escapes me now.  During the dinner, we started talking about things to do in Indy.  He was trying to persuade me that it’s really a much crazier town that most people realize.

“I know some people who live with a wild pig in their house,” he said.  I didn’t buy it.

So he upped the ante. “Let’s drive out there right now.”

We got in my rental Chrysler 300 and drove to the suburbs of the suburbs of Indy.  It was the last house on the cul-de-sac.  We walked in, shook hands with his very sweet friends, and started chatting.

In that living room, I learned that a pig coming down the hallway sounds different than a dog.  His name was Bacon.

Due to an earlier conversation with this guy, I knew our time together would end at the pig adventure.  As we got back to the wedding, we resumed the night among our separate groups of friends.  “Where have you been?”, Colleen asked me.  I showed her these photos…



Awwww, Sweet Bacon!

Awwww, Sweet Bacon